Chapter 18: Tinder

“In most histories of the Uncivil Wars, the Battle of Three Hills is but a footnote – especially given its proximity to the much more contentious Battle of Marchford. But for us, back then? Marchford might have been the crucible that forged us, but Three Hills lit the furnace.”
-Extract from the personal memoirs of Lady Aisha Bishara

The laughter did not last long.

The line of men-at-arms fell into chaos at the sight of their leader’s death while the probable Page dragged the Prince’s corpse back out of range with a cry of dismay. It would be a while yet before their sergeants got them into anything close to marching order, but there were other things to worry about. There was a noise like the beat of a hundred drums as the cataphracts of the Silver Spears charged across the muddy plain, eighteen hundred pairs of hooves striking the ground as they devoured the distance separating them from the Fifteenth Legion. The sight of nine hundred mounted killers decked in silver plate from head to toe was enough to send a shiver down my spine, but I shook the feeling off. The mud was slowing them, though not as much as I’d hoped. A handful of horses slipped under the tricky footing and rolled over their riders, but it was a mere handful. Not anywhere enough to make a dent in the strength that charge will carry. The two battalions of four hundred and fifty settled into the rough shape of an arrow as they crossed the ground, headed straight for what they must have thought to be the weak points in my line: the sapper companies on my flanks.

“They’ll be in range soon,” Juniper grunted.

“Let’s hope the stakes will do their job,” I agreed quietly.

The first volley of crossbow fire from the goblins did little to hinder the charging horsemen. Not that I’d expected it to, at that range. A few wounded horses, but the other cavalrymen streamed smoothly around the downed mounts. Gods Below and Everburning, what manner of wicked things I wouldn’t do to have cavalry like that. By the time the second volley hit, though, they were well into killing range. The bolts popped through plate on horses and men alike as my legionnaires drew the first real blood of the battle. There wouldn’t be time for more than a handful of those, I admitted to myself with a grimace. Those silver-enamelled bastards were faster than anyone loading a warhorse with that much weight had a right to be. The third volley was the bloodiest yet, and the tip of both mounted battalions disintegrated under the focused fire from my crossbowmen.

“Mages?” I asked the Hellhound.

“Just after the fourth volley,” she replied. “We want the best impact.”

They cataphracts were fifty yards away from my men when they hit the field of stakes. The ones in front saw the sharp ends jutting from the ground but it was too late to turn back – the momentum from those behind them would carry them through whatever they did. I’d seen some striking things in my life, even before I’d decided to pack up my things and become a villain – there was nothing in Creation quite like a golden Laure sunrise when all the bells in the City of a Thousand Bells were ringing – but I’d never seen anything like those swarms of riders splashing against the stakes like a wave against stone. In a heartbeat they were stopped cold, a line of eviscerated horses and upended riders marking the work of my sappers. That was the moment the fourth volley hit, and if the third one had been bloody this one was sheer slaughter.

“Raise the pennant,” Juniper ordered.

A hundred balls of flame bloomed into existence a moment after the signal was raised, and in the wake of the volley our mages sent them raging into the ranks of the enemy. Juniper had argued to concentrate the mage lines on the flanks, while I’d been more inclined to spread them out, and the sight of the chaos they were sowing made me glad I’d taken her advice. Masego clucked his tongue, reluctantly approving.

“Not a bad effect, for such a mundane spell,” he conceded.

Being raised by Warlock had given Apprentice a rather elitist view of the kind of magic taught to legion mages. He’d told me once that the fireball spell that was the bread and butter of our mage lines was a “pedestrian construct even a trained monkey could learn”, which while probably true was missing the point entirely. Easiness to learn was the criteria for all the official spellwork taught to legionaries: the point of it wasn’t sheer firepower, it was to make sure all legion mages could cast the bare basics. During battle, generals could then concentrate those basic spells in a single point to overwhelm the enemy. The doctrine of the Legions of Terror was a thoroughly practical one – it took a lot less time and effort to train twenty legionaries to cast a fireball than to teach one mage to cast one with the same strength as those twenty combined. Mages with talent like Masego’s didn’t grow on trees.

In the distance below I could see the fire had been the tipping point for the cataphracts. In the last half-bell, they’d seen their leader die, a third of their number shot by my sappers and now they’d been stopped cold by the Fifteenth’s fortifications before being set on fire. They broke, and I felt my lips stretch into a grim smile as they fled back towards their men-at-arms. The first part of our battle plan had gone off without a hitch. Whether that was just the glimmer of hope before we got crushed or the beginning of our way to victory remained to be seen.

The officers on the other side had not spent their time idly: the rest of the Silver Spears was on the move already, the mass of men-at-arms slogging across the muddy field like a great snake made of glittering steel. They were… slower than I expected, and it took me a few moments to figure out why. The horsemen. When the cavalry had charged – and then retreated – they’d churned up the ground something fierce. As bad as the footing had been for the mounted men, it was twice as bad for the men-at-arms now. Pushing through knee-deep mud in heavy armour was exhausting work, I knew from personal experience. They’ll be dead on their feet by the time they hit our line.

Exhausted as they were, the men-at-arms still struck our centre like a battering ram. The formation of Hune’s kabili buckled under the impact but stabilized after a moment. As for Nauk’s… Well, the centre of his forces was made up of ogres. The moment the enemy vanguard made contact, the hammers came down and the first row of Silver Spears turned into chunky red paste. They kept charging into the meat grinder without flinching, though. The mercenaries were nowhere as disciplined as my own legionaries but I could not deny they were tenacious. I put aside the reluctant admiration I felt for the poor bastards: sooner or later the ogres would tire and the rest of Nauk’s soldiers were just regulars and heavies. As long as the enemy kept their focus here, though, we’d stay on top. Every one of their soldiers would have to climb over the corpses of the dead to take a swing at mine, and the sheer mass of their numbers was forcing their front line right into my legionaries’ blades. The throng kept pushing forward, stomping over any of their comrades that slipped in the mud – I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them drowned in there, heads kept in the mire by their own allies.

Still, two routs in a row had been too much to hope for. Not that it mattered:  the centre was a sideshow, ultimately. If Hune and Nauk broke the battle was over, sure, but the pivot of my plan had always been the flanks. Dug in as they were in the middle of the hills’ slope, all my commanders had to do was hold on while we took care of the rest. Juniper had kept a cohort of two hundred up the hill to serve as our reserve just in case there were any nasty surprises left, ready to plug any gaps in our defence if the worst came to pass.

“What in the Dark Gods?” she barked suddenly.

I followed her gaze and found exactly what she was talking about. Moving through the mass of men-at-arms like ghosts, a handful of enemy soldiers had come to the front of the melee. There couldn’t have been more than fifty of them: men and women in strange leathers with their heads shaved, all of them wielding long spears with barbed heads. They moved as a loose arrow and in a matter of moments they wedged themselves right into Nauk’s regulars, tearing through the front rank like it was wet parchment. Shit. Who the Hells are those guys? Nauk was losing too many legionaries way too quickly, and the counter-charges he ordered failed to dislodge the bastards. The newcomers weren’t wearing the same chain mail armour the rest of the men-at-arms, and there was just no way anyone using spears should be that good at killing. Spears were useful as a wall, to press back infantry or break cavalry charges, but these assholes were using them as single combat weapons flawlessly. Juniper looked as stumped as I was, and as usual Masego was pretty much useless when it came to anything that didn’t have to do with magic or poor social skills.

“Those are Helike Spear Saints,” Hakram said out of the blue.

Everyone turned to look at him with varying degrees of disbelief.

“They’re a monastic order from the Free Cities that dedicate their life to the spear,” he informed us.

Juniper spat on the ground, whether in disgust at our luck or to show her general opinion of everyone living south of the Waning Woods I couldn’t be sure.

“That’s all well and good,” she grunted, “but what are the fuckers doing here?”

Hakram shrugged.

“The House of Light has ties to the Helike royal family, remember? I guess the hero wasn’t full of it when he said he was a prince.”

Well, wasn’t that nice. Now I had to deal with a unit of shock troops intent on avenging their boss in the middle of a battle where I was already outnumbered badly. What next, was the godsdamned Wizard of the West gonna come out of the grave and set my people on fire?

“How do you even know that?” Masego demanded.

Hakram offered up a truly horrifying sheepish grin. One of these days I was going to have to tell him he actually looked scarier doing that than when he was trying to be scary.

“Figured we might end up fighting in the Free Cities at some point, so I’ve been looking up foreign units we should be careful around.”

And once again, it was made clear why Adjutant was my favourite out of our merry bunch. I really had lucked out, the day I’d been made lieutenant of his line back in the College. I looked back at where the Saints were still tearing through Nauk’s men with practiced efficiency. Time to pull out the first of my trump cards, then.

“Apprentice,” I said, “clean that mess up.”

The dark-skinned teenager offered me a lazy grin.

“Oh? Finally letting me off the leash, are we? Good, I was starting to get bored.”

He sauntered off down the hill, and knowing what I knew about the kind of magic he could pull off I felt safe in assuming the situation was now under control.

“You sure that’s going be enough, Squire? Could send in the reserves to be sure,” Juniper asked from my side.

“The only other mage I’ve seen pulling out magic on the same level as Masego is his father,” I replied, letting the words sink in.

My senior officers were all aware of who Masego’s father – well, one of them anyway – was: Warlock, the Sovereign of the Red Skies himself. If the stories they told about the man in the Wasteland were anything like the ones I’d been raised on, Juniper should understand exactly how dangerous that made Apprentice. With perfect timing thunder boomed and a streak of lightning struck across the noon sky, hitting right in the middle of the Saints. A dozen of them died instantly and twice as many were thrown away like rag dolls by the impact. Their formation wavered, and Nauk’s legionaries immediately turned up the pressure. Masego was already chanting his second spell, blue energy crackling around him in threads visible to the naked eye.

“So that’s why you keep him around,” Juniper mused, eyeing Apprentice with more respect than she ever had before.

Captain had been right, I noted with amusement: proficiency at violence really was the quickest way to get on an orc’s good side. Hakram cleared his throat from behind us.

“Flanks are seeing action.”

My gaze swivelled to the right side of the hills, where my goblins had started to fire on the approaching Silver Spears again. Most of the men-at-arms had been herded into the middle of the battlefield the way I’d intended them to be, but it looked like someone on the other side had kept their head on straight enough that the flanks were still going to have a fight on their hands. It was hard to tell how many of them there were slogging in – at least two hundred, maybe more? There was not even the shadow of a proper formation as they tried to hack their way through the stakes. The tribune in charge had his legionaries focus on the Silver Spears trying to make a path, but they’d brought up large shields to the front to cover themselves. A well-aimed salvo of fireballs put an end to that for a few moments, but before I could count thirty heartbeats they were back at it. I grimaced: the situation was not dire for now, but eventually our mages were going to run out of juice. A glance to the other flank convinced me that was where I should put my attention, though. There were about as many men-at-arms there pushing towards the goblins, but there was a recognizable silhouette at the head of the pack: the maybe-Page from earlier, carrying a banner as he led his soldiers straight into the stakes.

Unlike my officers, I’d never attended the tactics classes at the College. I’d had a very different education on the subject of war: every other day Black would sit down with me and we’d talk for a few hours. On some occasions we’d go over old battles and the ways they’d been won or lost, but most of the time the discussion was a little more abstract. In every battle there’s a fulcrum, he’d told me, the point that can swing it one way or another. Tactics were, generally speaking, better left to the generals: it was the place of those with Names to find that fulcrum and nudge it in the right direction. He hadn’t needed to spell out that “nudging” usually consisted of killing the right people in the right place at the right time. The Page raised the pennant he’d been carrying around since earlier and the men-at-arms behind him cheered. They ran straight into the stakes Pickler’s sappers had put up and I raised an eyebrow – were they going to hack those down by hand while being shot at the whole time?

At the moment they were losing soldiers with clockwork regularity as my crossbowmen placed their shots with practiced professionalism. They averaged a shot every fifteenth heartbeat, the official requirement for crossbowmen in the Legions of Terror, but I’d noted more than once that they had better accuracy than they should. Hakram had told me Pickler was picky about the kind of wood and rope we got issued, so she probably knew something I didn’t. The moment the Page reached the stakes was when it all started going downhill: the Named boy rammed the standard in the ground and there was a blinding flash of light. I blinked it away and grimaced at what I saw – a rough path had been pulverized through the stakes, the mud still smoking where the Name’s power had struck. Soldiers poured into the breach behind him as Page charged up the hill. And that’s my fulcrum right there.   

“Adjutant,” I spoke calmly. “We’re reinforcing the left flank. Juniper, I’ll be taking in the reserve.”

One of my mages sent a ball of flame hurtling through the air towards the Page, but a man right behind him raised his hand and the magic flickered out of existence. So that’s the priest that’s been mucking up our scrying.

“I’ll take the Page,” I told Hakram. “Get rid of the priest before he can make more of a mess.”

“At your command,” he gravelled back.

Juniper was already barking up a storm in the background, readying the cohort for combat. She wouldn’t lead it personally of course – it was her job to stay up here in the place with the best vantage point and make tactical decisions as events unfolded.  The two hundred legionaries moved in good order but I pulled ahead, too impatient to wait. Hakram kept up with us as well as he could, but he’d only come into his Name recently. He wasn’t as good at drawing on the power to add swiftness to his limbs. By the time I reached the goblins, Page and his men had reached their first ranks. The melee that ensued was sharply in the favour of the Silver Spears: goblins fought more viciously than any other of my soldiers, but none of them stood taller than a human’s chest. There were limits to how much nastiness could even out a struggle.

Sure-footed even in the mud, I rammed into the tip of their assault with my sword bare. The man in front of me was tanned and bearded, snarling as I came to him – his blade rose but he was no more than an amateur playing at war. My shield broke his nose and my arming sword cut his throat, leaving a corpse behind as I charged into the melee. The cohort behind me swept into the fight like a hammer blow, knocking the momentum out of the men-at-arms. It had been some time since I’d fought men without a Name, and never before had I taken the fight to them without my own power being hamstrung. The experience was… enlightening. I burrowed into their line like an arrow into flesh, too horrified to smile.

They were not enemies so much as silhouettes now, streaking in front of me almost too fast to follow as I scythed through them like wheat. A young boy tried to bring down a mace on my shield but lost his hand and his head with two flicks of the wrist, crimson raining on the mud as I stepped past his corpse. Stories spoke of villains and heroes as having the strength of a hundred men on the field, and now I understood the true terror of it: they could not stop me. They could not even slow me, and even when they tried to bury me in corpses they found I did not tire. This was not a fight so much as a massacre, and I felt bile rise in my throat. It was almost a relief when the enemy hero came to meet me, casually running his rapier through the eye of a goblin. Page, the call came through the enemy’s ranks. A prayer and a promise. Well, at least I wouldn’t have to ask for introductions. Now that I was close enough to see the boy’s face I wasn’t so sure he was, in fact, a boy. Maybe he just had really delicate bone structure? I suppose I could have asked, but now didn’t really seem like the time.

“You,” Page spoke and what did you know, that was definitely a woman’s voice, “you’re the one who ordered that filthy orc to shoot.”

I assumed she was referring to Nauk, which was being quite unfair to my commander. He bathed exactly as often as Legion regulations required it, so he wasn’t any filthier than the rest of my army.

“More like mimed it, really,” I replied.

Page’s rapier slid out of the goblin’s eye socket with a wet squelch.

“It was nothing more than cold-blooded murder,” she said, her tone halfway between anguished and furious. “He was a good man. A good man.”

“And now he’s a dead one,” I spoke flatly, eyeing the rapier’s point. “Way of the world, or so I’m told.”

She was barking up the wrong tree if she was trying to guilt-trip me about the Exiled Prince’s death. He’d been asking for a duel, and if you took all the glorified pomp out of that concept all that was left was the intent to kill. If you’re asking me to be sorry that I was smarter about killing him than he was about killing me, you’ll be waiting a long time.

“I should have known better than to expect contrition from a Praesi,” Page snarled.

“I’m actually from Callow,” I told her, raising an eyebrow.

“- but I promise you this, Squire,” she continued, ignoring my interjection, “you will be sorry by the time I’m done with you.”

I didn’t mind letting her trash talk longer than this, though she seemed like she might be done. The longer she talked, the more time Hakram had to take out the priest. The reserve cohort had plugged the gap in the stakes where the men-at-arms had been pouring through and from the corner of my eye I could see the tribune commanding the crossbowmen putting her lines back in order. That small look at the situation nearly cost me my life: in the fraction of a moment where I’d taken my eyes off of her, Page had moved. Months of sparring against Captain had endowed me with reflexes that bordered on supernatural, though: out of habit I took a half-step to the side, turning a strike that would have gone right through my eye into one that left a thin mark on my cheek. I guess the conversation’s over. Shame, we were finding so much common ground. The footing was tricky with all the mud but I widened my stance and brought up my shield, the tip of my sword rising to face my opponent.

I’d never faced anyone using a rapier before – it wasn’t a popular weapon this far up north – which put me at something of a disadvantage. And if the speed she’d just moved with was any indication, Page might actually be faster than me. That I can deal with. So were Black and Captain. I’d just have to stay defensive until I had a better grasp on the way she fought, which was the way I preferred doing things anyway. The other girl was lighter on her feet, unburdened by the weight of the plate I wore, and she slowly circled around me. The point of her rapier flickered a few inches away from my face when I pivoted to match her but I refused to rise to the bait. It was only when she’d done two thirds of a circle around that I realized what she was actually doing: she’d been making her way up the slope to grab the high ground, and I’d been so cautious I’d let her do it without a challenge.

Cursing under my breath I took a few careful steps in her direction, attention divided between her stance and the tip of her sword. I almost missed it when she moved. Her weight shifted a fraction towards her back foot and the instant afterwards she was trying to run her rapier in the soft flesh under my chin – I slapped away at the point with the side of my shield but it was already gone. She immediately took the opening, the rapier sliding into the elbow joint of my sword arm and scoring blood. Hissing, I stepped back and brought my shield up. So that was the way Page wanted to play me, then: feinting with killing blows I couldn’t afford to let go and then turning them into quick, debilitating hits to my amour’s weak points. She’s fought people in plate before, I decided. No one our age improvised that well on the spot: she’d already worked out her tactics for this.

Page met my eyes and smiled a cold, cold smile. Huh. I had a feeling I would have liked her, if she weren’t currently doing her level best to fillet me. She was good. Better than me, much as it pained me to admit it. I had barely a year of training under my belt, no matter how gruelling it had been, and there was too much of a gap in experience between us for me to able to beat her at this game. William had hammered in that point in Summerholm, crushing me even at my peak of power. That’s why you don’t play the game, you play the player. The kind of training she’d gone through wasn’t something commoners could afford. She must have studied under masters for years to get this good, learning all the ways to take out different opponents with that little needle of hers. Those pearly white teeth, that perfectly fitting armour, that immaculate haircut – you’re a noble’s kid, or at least a wealthy merchant’s. There was something about the way she moved that spoke of a perfectionist streak, and I happened to know how to deal with those.

I rushed her with all the grace of an ogre tearing through a pottery shop, nearly slipping in the mud when I stepped around the blow she flicked towards my eye. She tried to make distance but my Name was howling like an angry beast, thirsting for blood. The power rushed through my veins and I saw her next strike coming before she ever moved, bringing up my shield and letting her point score a thin scratch against the metal. I rammed it into her chest as she was halfway through taking a step back, feeling a savage grin tugging at my lips. At the last moment she managed to turn her stumble into a fluid spin and for the barest of moments we were back to back – I elbowed her, my plate-covered arm ramming into her back with a greatly satisfying noise. She was quicker than I to turn around but I could keep up now, and I’d claimed back the high ground. With a snarl she tried to ram her rapier through the side of my knee joint, but I kicked the point away. I moved forward again, undaunted: I couldn’t let her make space again, that was her game. Mine was to stick close where her speed wouldn’t mean as much and my arming sword would work best.

The edge of Page’s blade shone for a fraction of a moment, glinting like a lake under moonlight before it blurred into motion. I was ready for her this time. My Name was a dark thing, I realized more every day, but it was my darkness. I owned it, and I could feel it laugh in time with my every heartbeat. My sword slapped her own away with almost insulting ease. My shield savagely impacted with her face, the telltale crunch of a broken nose resonating up my arm. She flew back, blood flying, and I let go of the shield. Page landed on the ground and tried to get on her knee, rapier providentially still in hand, but my armoured boot landed on her chest and put an end to that. She dropped the rapier and in the blink of an eye slid a dagger I hadn’t even noticed into my knee joint – I let out a noise that was half-yell, half-snarl and fell on top of her. We struggled but I was heavier and this was my battleground. All those years she’d spent learning all her sword forms and footwork, I’d spent earning stripes of my own. Far before Black had ever taken me under his wing, I’d learned to fight in the damp darkness of the Pit. I had to drop my sword to push down the hand that held the dagger, but my other one was free and that was enough. I punched her in the jaw once, twice and teeth flew.

There was the glint of sunlight on metal and she produced another dagger out of nowhere, trying to slip it into the unprotected stretch after my gauntlet, but it was a shallow wound. I gritted my teeth and worked through the pain as she desperately tried to slide the dagger out of my flesh while I groped through the mud for my sword. She did and I bit down on a scream, but it was a moment too late – my fingers closed on the hilt of my sword and I brought it down right under her chin. There was a wet gurgle and she tried to breathe through it, but I knew a mortal wound when I saw one. With the last of her strength she tried for a final strike, but there was no strength left in her: it just glanced off my breastplate. I leaned forward as the last of light left her eyes, just close enough for a whisper.

“When you see your Prince on the other side,” I gasped, “tell him he should have worn his godsdamned helmet.”

I wrenched my sword free, and that was the end of her.

 

48 thoughts on “Chapter 18: Tinder

  1. Bart

    Busy reading — copy/pasting typos as I find them:

    Well, the center of his froces
    froces should be forces

    you’re the one who ordered that that filthy orc to shoot.
    double that should be single

    I grit my teeth
    The rest of the paragraph is written in a different tense — should be gritted instead of grit

    I was enthralled by what I was reading.🙂

    Who’s Lady Aisha Bishara?

    Also, I’m looking forward to this “Battle of Marchford”.

    Like

    1. Daemion

      You don’t know who Aisha is? She’s one of Catherine’s officers, one of her opponents from the war games.

      I’m glad that Page died quickly, Catherine really didn’t need yet another nemesis.😉

      Like

      1. haihappen

        Actually, Page could not really kill our little Squire, since her story is still waiting for the third, and final, confrontation with the Lone Swordsman. She could have “defeated” her, yes, but killing was not in the cards.
        To break that pattern, Page would have needed a little more clout with the universe.

        But indeed, Catherine is not fighting like a Knight, but like a Warlord (capital W)!
        It is still in the open if the “Redemption Story” she is in is targeted at William or at her (or both).

        There should a book “Names, their themes and pattern.”, in canon, Part of Bardic Knowledge 101.
        Perhaps an excerpt of that could do as introductionary flavour-text?
        Hmmm… Is there any indication for a fan-fiction website in view? What is the Creator’s (capital C intended) stance on setting-only fan-fics?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I imagine people could start a category on ff.net or AO3 if they want to. I personally don’t see the Guideverse as one that lends itself particularly well to fanfics, but I’ve nothing against it – God knows I’ve written a few myself. As for your second question, I’m not sure what you mean. Elaborate?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. stevenneiman

        Nah, this’ll really put a wrench in her plans to collect the whole set. Now she’ll need to wait for another Page to come along and piss them off again.

        Like

      4. haihappen

        @Author: One question concerned your stance on FF, which I personally think is a great idea! Already considering writing up a group of Named: “The Troupe”. Yes. a “Named” group of Named. An assortment of various grey-hero/anti-hero types which have a bardic / robin-hood-esque theme. “Bringing the high low” and so forth.

        The Other Question was regarding the history of Named, and world-building in general (I am a sucker for good world-building). I was imagining that in a world running so heavily on stories and themes, that someone ought to have written a comprehensive guide of them. It was an idea that transpired directly into “Can we expect something like this to come up in the future?”.
        If not/not specifically, my train of thought directly wandered to FF territory, which culminated into the FF question.

        Like

  2. Well done! You just managed something even my favourite gritty fantasy author Joe Abercrombie struggles with: making a huge battle exciting and engaging.

    Your writing is exceptional. I totalky want to purchase the book.

    Like

  3. Shikome Kido Mi

    I see Squire finally managed to get some use out of all those years of experience in close quarters combat. It must be immensely frustrating that everyone always wants to fight with weapons that she’s only recently started using, but here she managed to do what I’m pretty sure we’re meant to see as her strength– dictating the terms of the fight to play to her strengths and her enemy’s weaknesses.

    Like

    1. haihappen

      RIP Page. First actual Named to be killed by the Squire personally.

      Perhaps burn her and the Prince together on a funeral pyre? For the romantic high note.
      Or animate them as zombies? This is a story about villains, after all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bart

        Oh my goodness, animate then as zombies, yes!

        Poor Page. If only she’d opened her eyes, she might have realized that there in front of her was someone who could have been ready and willing to return her affections, but Page was as blind as her Knight was.

        Like

      2. stevenneiman

        I really wonder if animating a deceased former Named would get you anything good besides an ordinary zombie and maybe a bit of Evil cred. It would be cool if you could somehow mess with the Name or lock it away like that, but I strongly doubt that could work unless it was a sapient undead of an Evil character who still fit the Role.

        Like

  4. Cap'n Smurfy

    Beautiful. I could actually visualise the battle happening. Too often in novels you just here what happened afterwards a disjointed individual view.

    Like

  5. stevenneiman

    “send a shiver down my [spinet->spine]”
    “it was [twice as worse->even worse/twice as bad] for the men-at-arms”
    “center of his [froces->forces] was made up of ogres”
    “Commanders” ranks should still only be capitalized if they are either Names or used in conjunction with a proper noun, like “Commander Juniper”
    “in [stranger->strange] leathers”
    “Hakram kept {up with} us as well as he could”
    “The cohort behind me swept [into->into the/in to] fight”
    “It was nothing more {than} cold-blooded murder”

    I was really expecting a more extreme reaction from Page. I’d figured she would either go full Heroic BSOD and break down helplessly crying or else she’d almost win. I hadn’t expected her to make a completely mediocre attempt to get revenge.
    On another note, I could really use any help people can offer on the wiki at http://abridged-guide-to-evil.wikia.com/wiki/Abridged_Guide_to_Evil_Wikia. And if anyone knows how to search things on this site, it would be really useful for finding specifics and such.

    Like

    1. x

      More typos: (trying to avoid duplicates – the “froces” one for example is in 3 posts already when I write this)

      wearing the same chain mail armor the rest of the men-at-arms,
      armor +as the / the rest of the men-at-arms +wore

      With perfect timing thunder boomed
      timing, thunder

      as I charge into the melee
      charged

      Maybe he just had really delicate bone structure?
      had +a really

      My sword slapped her own away
      “slapped hers away” feels more natural to me, but I’m not quite sure about this – “her own” might better fit cases where “she” was the subject, as in “she slapped the sword away with her own”?

      Like

      1. stevenneiman

        I don’t tend to bother reading the comments, and just keep a running tab of all the errors I spot in each chapter.
        Also, “had really delicate bone structure” is valid as-is, and just comes down to personal preference how it parses best. I like it the way it is now.

        Like

    2. Page and William are in different leagues, though she gave it the good ol’ college try. As for breaking down crying, that’s unlikely. People don’t become Named unless they have willpower in spades.
      I’ve added the wiki link to the Art and Maps section of the top menu (which is now Art, Maps and Other).

      Like

      1. stevenneiman

        I had actually figured that Page, Lone Swordsman and Squire were about equal as bottom-tier Names, but I’d definitely believe that Page is weaker if you say so. I mainly just figured that heroically avenging a murdered Hero and potential love interest was dramatic enough that Page would get the upper hand, and I was surprised that it turned out to be such a fair fight that it ultimately came down to simple competence. I guess maybe normal lines of Fate don’t matter that much when you already have so much more weight from a Name, and if you fought without anyone drawing on their Aspects it wouldn’t be that major a battle.
        On another note, aha! So a strong will is a requirement to become Named. I would feel clever for tricking information out of you, but that was totally accidental and I’m not sure if it was supposed to be obvious already.

        Like

  6. NPC

    Alright just caught up. Been loving this story. In particular the whole trapped by fate theme. Of course the real trick is manipulating your story to fit the fate the way you want.

    I would like to echo Cap’n Smurfy, the battle felt really good. I could see it happen in my head blow by blow.

    Speculation time. This isn’t going to be a redemption story. It’s a fall from grace tale. The Lone Swordsman is the one questioning his choices, not Squire. She’s the one learning from her mistakes. She’s the one coming up with new tactics. He’s the one who doomed himself, who compromised himself, made the deals he regrets. I suspect he is the one going to get a new name before Squire will.

    So is the Fifteenth Legion going to be the cavalry legion, or at least the first to incorporate a heavy cavalry contingent?

    I noticed in the last chapter’s comments you asked if we wanted to see the legion listings, I would really appreciate it you could put them up. It’s the type of thing I love to see author put the time and thought in for. Also because world building equals win.

    Like

    1. Bart

      It’s now been posted in the comments back there, or at least I read it somewhere.

      The Lone Swordsman’s story is, according to Black/Malicia, more a story about how redemption/grace will be defined in Callow. Will pragmatism be the doctrine of the day for Heroes? Will Squire’s name be cursed in the future by Callowans, or will she be hailed as their Saviour who brought them forth from the dark days of foreign Praesi rule?

      Like

  7. Alegio

    Mmmm.. I hoped for page to be another archenemy, we already have the villian and the anti hero,we still need the stereotyped good hero to finish the collection:/

    And I cant wait to see Hakrams battle, maybe we will get to see some of his names powers.

    Like

  8. Unmaker

    Typos:

    (there are 22 colons in the chapter – that’s a bit higher than most English writing)

    the found I did not tire
    they found …

    She was quicker than me
    She was quicker than I

    shiver down my spinet
    shiver down my spine

    enameled
    enamelled

    froces
    forces

    defense
    defence

    swiveled
    swivelled

    grueling
    gruelling

    telltale
    (usually)
    tell-tale

    armor (2)
    armour
    center (3)
    centre
    favorite
    favourite
    favor
    favour
    (if using UK spelling as suggested)

    one – it
    (two spaces on one side, one on the other)
    one – it

    Reactions:

    Win or lose, the 15th is going to be even more under-strength by the end of this. How are they going to handle that?

    The idea of a general sitting back and coordinating the battle from a safe position is a more modern idea, isn’t it? It certainly isn’t a heroic ideal and it seems, well, practical.

    The “good” side in this battle was missing ranged attacks, both (cross)bow and siege engine. Were there no bowmen? I thought they had time to set up the battlefield, so why aren’t there siege engines deployed?

    Like

    1. haihappen

      If you field fast-moving cavalry with hopes of crushing your opponents, you do not use bowmen.
      The strategy seemed to be to break the enemy formation with the horses, then mop up with the footmen, since moving a cavalry formation takes time.
      Using bowmen here would probably result in more casualties with the -distinctly under-armored- Men-at-Arms, than the legionaries.

      Side-Note: Training bowmen takes TIME, and is quite costly. Years of training for a longbowmen even. Using a short bow can be done more easily, but the range is really short (movies often protrait that wrong).
      Compared to that, training a peasant to use a sword is EASY. (“Stick them with the pointy end!”)

      Like

    2. haihappen

      Siege Engine?!
      1) what is there to siege?
      2) muddy field -> no siege engine
      3) a hit-and-run rebellion force -> no siege engines

      Medievally speaking, siege engines are constructed during or directly leading to a siege, since hauling them around was just not practical. Remember the war game at the College? That has a point. You do not simply bring a siege engine to Mordor… but if you find lumber, you can build one.

      Like

      1. Unmaker

        There is such a thing as anti-infantry siege (e.g. scorpions) and mobile siege (again, scorpions). Your points about the difficulties with longbows are spot on, but people can be trained with crossbows easily (which is why the Legions of Terror use them) and a foot-draw crossbow has a hell of a range too. It is entirely possible to use bows and cavalry in the same fight, especially a spread-out one like this. Just about anything that reduces enemy strength significantly before you get to them is a good thing. The Roman legions made good use of javelins carried by the infantry, for example.

        The author noted why there was no siege below.

        Like

      2. Haihappen

        There are many reasons to use crossbows. The legions make use of them, as you said, because people are easier to train with them. And depending on size and mechanisms used, they achieve higher range and penetration than a longbow.

        The most prominent reason why the Silver Spears probably have no or only a few crossbowmen:
        Crossbows are are not that easy to build and need to be properly maintained, which needs tools and skills.
        Probably the first thing the Dread Empire did when they conquered Callow: Imprison/Recruit/Execute all the armorers and weapon smiths.
        So all Crossbows the Silver Spears could field would have to be imported (at great cost) or stolen from the legions.

        It boggles my mind how the Exiled Prince paid for all the horses and armor for his cavalry. The Procerian silver can go only so far.

        But… its been 20 years since the conquest. And the Dread Empire did not take any horses from Callow to build up their own breeding stock?

        Btw: by Roman doctrine/morals, killing a men in war without being able to see his face, was considered unethical (I cannot remember the wording exactly, but that the spirit). Thats why they did not use bowmen (or at least not many, they DID have scouts&hunters who used them). The javalin was the next best compromise.

        Like

      3. You’re correct that crossbows weren’t common in Callow, but the Silver Spears aren’t from Callow – they’re from the Free Cities, more specifically Helike. They do have crossbows there, though not as as good as the crank models the Empire uses. Upper body strength is the actual reason Praes uses crossbows instead of bows, since theirs is a professional army and not a levy: goblins wouldn’t have the muscles to use a longbow.
        Callowan smithing is flatly inferior to what is produced in Foramen, but you’re correct that the Empire immediately leaned on the smithing guilds after the Conquest. Permits are needed to produce weapons and armour, usually sold or given out as favours by local Imperial Governors. Mazus in particular held auctions, one of the many reasons he was despised in Laure.
        The Exiled Prince is an actual Prince. He’s independently wealthy – something that pissed off William a few chapters back, if you’ll remember – and he was followed into exile by “men of quality”, aka people able to afford horses and armour on their own.
        Why the Empire doesn’t have horses is actually one of the few times Black was thwarted. After the Conquest the nobility butchered their stocks wholesale rather than turn them over to the Legions, and the few herds remaining in the country were private property of southern nobles. They refused to sell and forcing the issue might have started a revolt, hence why Black focused on more immediate concerns. As for importing from outside, there’s a flat ban on selling certain products to Praes ratified by most Good nations. (Some nations outright ban commerce, though in those cases Mercantis serves as an unofficial middle-man and the Free Cities outright ignore those treaties.)

        Like

      4. Haihappen

        I wasn’t thinking far enough, but you obviously have. Kudos🙂

        Makes sense to not attack with crossbows if your enemies crossbows can outrange yours…
        It is easy to dislike the Prince for someone of Cathrine’s mindset: He is a pretty rich guy who sees the world as something that has to obey to his wishes.

        Like

    3. People who make it to the higher ranks in the Legions are usually too old or considered too important to risk on the front lines. There are exceptions (General Istrid the most famous among them) but the man widely recognized as the best tactician in the Empire, Marshal Grem One-Eye, has written several essays against the practice. The screaming matches between them are legend in the ranks. Juniper models her command style more on his than her mother’s, much to her chagrin.

      The Silver Spears don’t field siege engines. Few polities other than the Empire actually bother to make and drag around their own (this was actually mentioned in the last Heroic Interlude), preferring to make them whenever they have to make lay siege. There are bowmen in the ranks, though few, and they haven’t been seen in action yet. Keep in mind that the Silver Spears are specialized in using raids and shock tactics for a larger force, since they’re a mercenary company. They’re not designed to give pitched battle on her own.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. nobodi12

    I have made (traced) a map of Empire

    Tell me what you think, and how to improve it. (Most likely i mispelled some names and missed details, so I will have to rework it anyway and if you want to give suggestions: “change the horrible font I can’t read a thing, the forest sucks redo it this way” now it is the time to tell them)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. First off, /wow/.
      That’s beautiful, and way better than the shitty colour map I have half-done somewhere on my computer. Seriously thanks for the work you put into that, it looks great.
      As for details, here’s a few. (Changing the font might not be a bad idea, since for a few places I’m honestly not sure whether there’s a spelling mistake or not. That said, it does look pretty damn cool.) So, assuming I’m reading the things right:
      – Wanning Woods should be “Waning Woods”
      – Hedees should be “Hedges”
      – Herrow should be “Harrow”
      – Ceith should be “Caith”
      – Beneath Ankou the mountains split into two passes, called the Red Flower Vales. You can check the continental map if you want a better idea of what they look like.
      – Northwest of Liag and under the Greenskin Marches, at the closest point between the lake and the river, there should be a wall
      – There’s a clear space around Marchford not taken up by hills, which in my version of the map is taken up by the word “Marchford”. (Will actually be plot relevant in the next few chapters :P)
      – Atsum should be “Aksum”
      – While I’ve never specified this anywhere, Satus and Hospes are large villages but not cities
      – The map I posted made it unclear, but Foramen isn’t entirely surrounded by mountains. It has a clear path to the desert that snakes along the part of the map where I wrote the word “Foramen”
      Aside from a few minor details like this, you pretty much aced it. Love the work, and whenever you get around to the modified version I’ll be sure to link it.

      Like

      1. nobodi12

        I’m happy that you like it❤.

        I have made small modifications:
        Corrected the spelling, changed font (in photoshop it is easier that I thought! Thanks adobe programmers for making it so easy), added the wall, cleared stuff around Marchford and Foramen, changed Satus and Hopes to villages (I added city pictures at random, if you want I can send you the grid I took them from and you chose which pic goes to which city. Or I can give you directly the .psd file).

        I have not done the Red Flower Vales cause I want to redo the mountains and the forests and I'm not yet sure how to draw a pass inside mountains.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Lucas Portilho

    I reaaally love this webseries… Been reading it for over 6 months now. I think I’ts really original and well written, the battles are great and… it also helps with my english skills😀 >I’m from Brazil<

    Anyway, just wanted to say, Thanks for writting!

    Like

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